This post is part of a series of guest posts authored by popular bloggers and internet business consultants. Today's guest post is written by Dean Shanson, a professional writer and a regular contributor to some of the Web’s leading marketing blogs.

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Guest-Post: Audible Gets Follow-Up Emails Wrong

Every couple of weeks or so, I used to receive an email offering me a free audiobook. The company that sends the email is legitimate. Audible is a large company that I’ve bought from in the past so I had given them my email address and opted in to receive its marketing messages. As a customer I should have been on the firm’s buy list, a hot prospect to send them more dollars in the future.

I’ve now unsubscribed and it’s more likely that the next time I buy an audiobook, I’ll be buying from a competitor.

The reason that Audible no long has my address is that while the company was good, the offer wasn’t. In order to qualify for the free audiobook, I’d have to pay a monthly fee for Audible’s book club, a method of buying that doesn’t suit me.
It was bad enough that the email headline included an offer that wasn’t completely accurate. (The audiobook was only “free” if I paid a monthly fee worth far more than the download.) But the persistence with which the company continued to make an offer the stats would have told it I didn’t want eventually became too annoying. The next time I saw the phrase “free audiobook” in a subject line, I looked for the unsubscribe link. Now Audible can’t even send me special offers that I might actually be interested in using.

Change the Subject Line
There is an important warning for email marketers in that story — a story that’s familiar to anyone who receives marketing messages in their email.
It’s to stop sending the same offer in the same way to people who haven’t responded to it.
Repeating an offer can be a good strategy: not everyone pays attention to an email the first time they see it. But the approach needs to be altered, and the most important element that needs to change is the subject line.
It was the subject line that informed me that Audible was once again pushing its book club — and it was that subject that prompted me to unsubscribe.

According to new research from Baydin, makers of email management software, some words in a subject line are more likely to generate a positive response than others. After reviewing five million emails, the company found that “apply,” “opportunity,” “demo” and “connect” were more effective than “confirm,” “join,” “assistance” and “speaker,” for example.
That’s valuable information but it’s also general information. The word “free” in an email subject line should also win a response — unless the recipient has already shown they’re not interested.

As you’re putting together an offer for an email campaign, it’s fine to assume that readers won’t respond the first time they see it. It’s reasonable to expect that the second email blast will still receive some, if fewer, responses.

But the best information about the responsiveness of your offers to the people on your subscriber lists is your stats. When you send a second wave of emails out to people who didn’t respond the first time, make sure you send it in a different way and with a different subject line. Otherwise, you might find that you can’t send them anything at all.